School Board Zeroes In on Superintendent Finalist

The San Marino Unified School District Board of Education awaits contract negotiations and a successful background check before it announces its presumptive hire to be the district’s next superintendent.
The board reached its decision in a closed session meeting Monday evening, according to board President Lisa Link, and expects to announce the new superintendent’s name and background by the end of the week. Districts customarily withhold the names of applicants from public record in the interest of protecting the applicants’ desires from their present employers, often neighboring school districts.
Link said in a text message that the board’s selection presently works for a California school district.
Forty-four applied for the superintendent job and the school board, in prior closed-session meetings, eliminated candidates deemed on paper to be unqualified and, upon review of the video applications, narrowed the pool to six candidates worthy of in-person interviews.
The board conducted those six interviews in a closed-session meeting on Friday and, from there, picked three to bring in for a second interview on Saturday. The Monday evening decision followed that Saturday round.
The new hire would assume executive control of the state’s top-performing school district in terms of academic evaluation for nearly two decades, a district with an informal mandate from parents to improve its approach to the mental health and wellness of its students while continuing to innovate its educational programming.
Other challenges facing the district moving forward include a state funding formula that does not favor small high-achieving districts like SMUSD, an increasingly aging collection of physical assets at all four school sites and how to address the burden of unfunded pension liabilities, the latter of which is virtually ubiquitous throughout public California entities.
The former superintendent, Alex Cherniss, departed in August after more than four years with SMUSD to begin the same role with Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District. Loren Kleinrock, whom Cherniss replaced in 2014, was tabbed to resume the position in an interim capacity while the board searched for a new executive.
Although the vacancy occurred in August, the board held off on starting its hiring process until January in observance of a contested election for three of the board’s five seats in November. Two incumbents — C. Joseph Chang and Shelley Ryan — were re-elected and Corey Barberie joined the board as a new member, replacing Nam Jack after she decided against seeking re-election. Link and Chris Norgaard remain in the middle of their current terms.

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